The theme today is ‘Patience’. The older I become the more impatient I seem to be, and more aware of developing what I will call VMS – Victor Meldrew Syndrome! For those who have never seen an episode of the TV programme ‘One Foot in the Grave’, this will mean little or nothing. Victor Meldrew, played by the actor Richard Wilson, is a retired middle class man who has no patience with anything or anybody, and whose catchphrase is “I don’t believe it!’
In his letter, James refers to those who have abused their positions of power and wealth by causing misery and even death to others, and he tries to encourage his fellow believers with these words, “Be patient then, brothers, until the Lord’s coming”. Patience is defined as ‘tolerant and even-tempered perseverance; the capacity for calmly enduring pain and trying situations; the acceptance of delay with equanimity’. Victor Meldrew has none of these qualities. In his letter, James refers to the Christian’s conduct as he waits for the second appearing of his Lord. ‘Patience ‘ is used in the passive sense of endurance in trials of various kinds, and in the active sense of perseverance in well doing, bearing fruit, running the appointed race. As faith meets and passes the tests of life, it grows by patience into full maturity. He gives an illustration from farming; the fruitfulness of Christian endurance and perseverance. The farmer sets out to obey the laws of God, as they concern the world of nature, and then having obeyed, he waits trustfully. Nothing can be hurried in this process, and the early and late rains must come to prepare the soil and the seed, and to swell the grain to give a rich crop. The farmer’s patience is tested, but the outcome is longed for and known, a sure hope which strengthens the farmer during the waiting period. James says, “You too be patient and stand firm, because the Lord’s coming is near”. We must face trials and tribulations in our pilgrimage of faith, the storms of the early and late rains, but we have a sure hope to strengthen us through the waiting period.
Earlier in his letter, James exhorts his readers to “consider it pure joy….whenever you face trials of many kinds, because you know the testing of your faith develops perseverance; but perseverance must finish its work so the you may be mature and complete, not lacking anything”. For us, the same principles apply as for the farmer; the obedience of faith, the testing of life, patient constancy, all held in place by a great hope. This is how it should be, but very often our weakness and imperfections in the period of waiting, and in times of stress, can show itself in impatience and loss of self control, especially in the things we say. The people of God murmured against Him and His servant Moses, in the wilderness when things seemed to be going wrong as they journeyed towards the promised land.
James uses the example of the prophets as to patience. Their suffering was a mark of God’s approval, as He trusted them to suffer for His name’s sake. They did not murmur nor complain, but endured all manner of insults and physical violence; even death. The patience of Job in suffering is an extreme example of human steadfastness, but more than that it is a demonstration of Divine purposefulness. The blessing of Job in the end was the chosen Divine objective from the beginning. The end of suffering is the enrichment of knowing God more fully. The coming of the Lord will bring the only solution to life’s problems. We must be like the farmer who patiently waits for the harvest. Our Saviour will rectify the mistakes, and straighten the crooked places, and He is standing at the door! There is only one just Judge, our Lord Jesus Christ, and perfect justice will be established when He comes. So as we recall the words of the Apostle James, let us pray that we may be patient until the Lord’s coming. May we develop increasing symptoms of VMS. Not VMS, Victor Meldrew Syndrome, but VMS, Victorious Mature Servants.